Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tattoos On The Heart by Gregory Boyle

Father Gregory Boyle will be in New York City doing a book reading/signing and I am ECSTATIC. His book is wonderful. I've read it twice...both times in under a week (the first time in two days). I recommend it! Here's a page and a half of the book below:

At Camp Paige, a county detention facility near Glendora, I was getting to know fifteen-year-old Rigo, who was about to make his first communion. The Catholic volunteers had found him a white shirt and black tie. We still had some fifteen minutes before the other incarcerated youth would join us for Mass in the gym, and I'm asking Rigo the basic stuff about his family and his life. I ask about his father.

"Oh," he says, "he's a heroin addict and never really been in my life. Used to always beat my ass. Fact, he's in prison right now. Barely ever lived with us."

Then something kind of snaps in him--an image brings him to attention.

"I think I was in fourth grade," he begins. "I came home. Sent home in the middle of the day. Got into some pedo at school. Can't remember what. When I got home, my jefito was there. He was hardly ever there. My dad says, 'Why they send you home?' And cuz my dad always beat me, I said, 'If I tell you, promise you won't hit me?' He just said, 'I'm your father. 'Course I'm not gonna hit you.' So I told him."

Rigo is caught short in the telling. He begins to cry, and in moments he's wailing and rocking back and forth. I put my arm around him. He is inconsolable. When he is able to speak and barely so, he says only, "He beat me with a pipe...with...a pipe."

When Rigo composes himself, I ask, "And your mom?" He points some distance from where we are to a tiny woman standing by the gym's entrance.

"That's her over there." He pauses for a beat, "There's no one like her." Again, some slide appears in his mind, and a thought occurs.

"I've been locked up for more than a year and a half. She comes to see me every Sunday. You know how many buses she takes every Sunday--to see my sorry ass?"

Then quite unexpectedly he sobs with the same ferocity as before. Again, it takes him some time to reclaim breath and an ability to speak. Then he does, gasping through his tears. "Seven buses. She Imagine."

How, then, to imagine, the expansive heart of this God--greater than God--who takes seven buses, just to arrive at us. We settle sometimes for less intimacy with God when all God longs for is this solidarity with us. In Spanish, when you speak of your great friend, you describe the union and kinship as being de una y mugre--our friendship is like the fingernail and the dirt under it. Our image of who God is and what's on God's mind is more tiny than it is troubled. It trips more on our puny sense of God than over conflicting creedal statements or theological considerations.

The desire of God's heart is immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure. This longing of God's to give peace and assurance and a sense of well-being only awaits our willingness to cooperate with God's limitless magnanimity.

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